Urban Factories of the Knowledge_Aldo Vanini
Although in a less striking form than what happened in the past, the passage of the millennium has seen a revolution—one that is still in progress—of the social and functional structures of humankind. Institutions that have consolidated themselves over the past few centuries are losing their traditional and elitist roles to adapt to a more complex and extremely faster society. In particular, the expansion of information and its transformation into an economic asset have profoundly altered the processes of educating and training the ruling classes. Until recently, education was rigidly formalized in academic institutions, but now, it is open to the rest of society, implying a newfound, reciprocal connection between academic sites and the city.
Several factors make traditional academic architectural forms and layouts obsolete, rendering them unsuitable for complying with the new and complex functions that universities carry out. These factors include the extraordinary growth of scientific and cultural research in general; the diffusion of knowledge through computer networks; a revolution in the ways of enlisting in the world of work; and the geometric growth of the student body. New needs offer an exciting opportunity for designers to experiment with new layouts and, at the same time, with a new formal repertoire that can affect urban dynamics. In the following examples, one can observe the progress made with the new material structures dedicated to the huge urban factory of knowledge.
Architecture in the Information Continuum_Davide Pisu
This feature focuses on recent development in the design of media libraries as an evolution of the traditional library. The Paper retraces the connections between the spatial traits of the libraries and the underlying idea of access to information through the description of “transitional” projects from the beginning of the 1990s, namely the transition from strong geometric organization of information in the space as in the loci method and in the theatre of memory to flowing and freeform geometries related to the combinatoriality of information retrieval systems or the World Wide Web. For this purpose it focuses on three specific features of such buildings: the connection to the public and their approach to the wider context of the city through the use of adjacent public spaces and facades; the internal geometry of shelves, desks and paths and the usage of electronic devices as means of display, research and organization.
Subsequently three contemporary projects are analyzed to highlight the different strategies of the designers in relation to their context and their attitude towards Information Technologies. As a conclusion, the scenarios they evoke for the future developments of such facilities are described and analyzed in their social dimension as civic buildings.
Mexican Concrete Inheritance_Alejandro Hernández Gálvez
In the second half of the twentieth century, Mexican modern architecture was characterized by the use of exposed concrete as principal building material. Although this was associated with Brutalist architecture in Europe and the United States and the Metabolists in Japan in that time, it was also a modern interpretation of pre-Hispanic and even architecture as well as a pragmatic response to the conditions of Mexico’s local construction industry.
Three new buildings in Mexico, two of which were designed by the two Mexican studios – Isaac Broid in association with Productora and Michel Rojkind’s firm – and the other by the studio of Spanish architect, Ignacio Mendaro, seem to be continuation and revision of this architectural tradition at the same time. With the use of a single material, these buildings produce diverse and even surprising tectonic and spatial effects.